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Monday, January 19

Over committed

I am doing way too much at the moment. As always, I like doing way too much, but it's hard on the body. I haven't even really got time to write this, but I'll say a few words, since it's probably something I should try to do from time to time.

I have spent the evening writing. We're writing a show for the Leicester Comedy Festival. I'm actually really excited about what we've got and I'm sure it's going to be funny. There's also the small matter of getting bums on seats and worrying about wires and other logistical matters - such is the way I end up going when I'm in the process of organising a show. Still, ideas are coming thick and fast and that's very good. I like the creative process and it's stimulating - a good start to the year.

Having said that, I do get into some very silly moods. I drove my writing partner back home tonight - largely because having her rely on me for a lift home, rather than the train, means she can stay until we're done. As I was driving home, a sort of cop pastiche came to mind - "Wookie Cop" - the classic "new face meets old maverick" police thing, but where the new face is covered in hair. This made me laugh until I was nearly ill. I was ok. How very silly.

In other news, I managed to squeeze a few minutes in with an angle grinder this evening, all part of the show preparation of course. That's my kind of comedy - the sort where the sparks are flying, literally.

Sunday, January 18

A Permanent Record

I woke up at my girlfriend's place this morning. In truth I woke up twice, but the first time wasn't late enough to warrant actually getting out of bed, so I slept again. Then I woke up a second time. This second time put me into a state of being a bit later than planned for the meet-up I had in Reading, but a quick text, and the discovery that the person I was meeting had planned to be about that late anyway, soon made the staying in bed seem the perfect choice.

Breakfast was sadly followed by departure. It's always a shame to rush off. I didn't enjoy that bit. I did have a busy day ahead, so I pootled off with a mission. The mission was altered slightly as the person I was meeting had further transport delays and rearrangements, but I filled the extra time that opened with a trip to the supermarket for luncheonings and a trip to Homebase for some vital equipment for a musical instrument I'm building - it's a percussion instrument, so not that complicted a work of engineering from my side.

Then I did an 8 hour recording session with my visitor. It was her music and her choice of what to do with it. I had some say in how to add to the second song we did, and I engineered the recording, which was done with my usual "guessing the technique" system. I taught her a few tricks and she seemed happy with the result, so it was a good day.

Though this will seem self indulgent, I then spent the night time alone with this very blog. I looked over the last six months or so and wondered at the sea change that has occurred in my life. In a month or so more, I think that I almost wouldn't recognise the home and financial situation I hope to find myself in. I should point out that I'm not moving house, just getting somewhere with the one I'm in.

These are exciting times and I feel positive and lucky.

Saturday, January 17

Dulce Et Decoration Est

I like decorating. The irony that I'm paying a decorator to do my house while I go out to help with someone else's hasn't escaped me. However, that's what I choose to do and nobody need worry about it but myself. This was indeed the mission this Saturday. I pootled off to my girlfriend's sister and brother-in-law's house and we did DIY all day. It was smashingly good fun. There were walls to paint, things to drill, things to assemble, others to disassemble. It was a bunch of nice discrete easy jobs that could be tackled end to end, with the ability to both stand back and say - "yeah, good job", and also the ability to walk away from it and not have to scrutinise it daily and wonder how much better it might look if one or two minor anomalies could be fixed.

Perfect.

And there was chinese food.

Friday, January 16

First Gig Back

Don't ask. Well, do, I'll be telling you in a minute, even though you, the reader, are merely a device I use in the writing to help me express myself. You don't really exist, well, to you you do, but to me, sitting here writing my thoughts, though I know people read them, the reader is much more abstract. In fact, I'm just having a dialogue with myself and anyone who chooses to partake of these words is an onlooker.

Before I've even started, I've gone off on one. This I think typifies the sort of gig I did tonight. I hadn't done a gig in nearly a month. I wasn't sure what sort of performance I wanted to gig and I just wanted a live rehearsal with a laughter track. The person who booked me probably wanted me to entertain his audience and I think I also did that - I certainly set out to.

I had a classic problem with this gig. I arrived way too early. As a result, I peaked during the sound check. Another problem was that I received and, and this is the important bit, actually took, a telephone call just as the gig was starting and near the time I was meant to go on. As a result, I changed mode from silly entertainer to serious person/concerned and thoughtful friend, and had a bit of trouble changing gear back.

Overall, though, I was just rusty. I had a few inspired moments, especially one where I said I'd been "rustily going through my set" but heard myself said "I've been Rusty Lee" and did a bit of material about that... well, I just joked on the subject of it, I didn't quite start taking the piss out of an 80's black female TV chef. That would be unusual behaviour, even for me.

A band was good, I bought their CD, then I came home with the gig ending behind me. It was good to get back in the saddle. The video I took, like the gig, was merely a rehearsal.

The Seven Deadly Jokes

Well, it's shaping up nicely and so it's long overdue for a plugging - please check out the show I'll be involved with at the Leicester Comedy Festival next month:


The Seven Deadly Jokes

Monday, January 12

Zen and the Art Of Creative Zen Touch Maintenance

A few weeks ago, I fixed a Creative Zen Touch that did not work with Windows Vista. I posted on a few forums, from where I'd gotten some of the clues for how to fix it, and someone contacted me yesterday looking for help.

In the name of posterity, and to help any Googlers out there, here are some quick notes on how to make the Creative Zen Touch work with Windows Vista.


  1. You cannot do this using a Windows Vista machine. You need to use Windows XP to apply these fixes.

  2. With the latest firmware, the Creative Zen Touch is 100% plug and play compatible with Windows Vista, so applying these changes is all you need to do.

  3. Your Windows XP machine cannot have Windows Media Player 11 installed on it. If it does, then the firmware upgrade will half-complete, then the device will reboot and it will be broken completely, neither able to work as it did before, nor move forward. You need to downgrade from Windows Media Player 11 to Windows Media Player 10 to make the firmware upgrade. This involves uninstalling two components in Windows: Windows Media Player 11 and Microsoft User-Mode Driver Framework Feature Packe 1.0 - you can upgrade back to these later using Windows Update.



That all said, the answers are on the creative Web site. You need the latest firmware and the tips on downgrading Windows Media Player 11:

http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArticle.aspx?url=http://203.211.142.197:80/srvs/cgi-bin/webcgi.exe/,/%3fst=273,e=0000000000608101874,k=9108,sxi=4,case=obj(16737),kb=ww_english_add,varset=ws:http://uk.europe.creative.com

http://support.creative.com/Products/ProductDetails.aspx?catID=213&subCatID=214&prodID=10274&prodName=ZEN%20Touch&subCatName=ZEN&CatName=MP3+Players

Delivering The Plan

Do They Believe Me?
For the majority of my team, English is their second language. I sometimes find myself talking on conference calls to a wall of silence. I'm fairly certain that most of that is "CPU time" - i.e. time they spend parsing the last sentence I said, rather than time they're spending feeling blank or opinionless.

I don't know if they read this blog - if you do, guys, hello! Welcome to my thoughts.

Today we had a hard truth to face. The plan wasn't working. In this case, there's only really one thing you can do. You have to replan. You can't up the pressure or pretend that time will come from some magic place. You have to take a blank sheet and plan forwards from where you are now to some sort of end result. In some cases, that may mean changing the way that you plan to ensure some sort of success.

So, this afternoon had a few uncertainties to it, and the team were left wondering how I could possibly be saying positive things about the first week of the two weeks if the plan was failing. They were left to wonder whether I was being genuine when I was saying it was good news that we had discovered this. I say they were left to wonder, perhaps they didn't notice. Perhaps they don't have suspicious minds. Surely, when the team leader says "I'm glad you told me this bad news" it should mean that he's not glad, but he's just putting a false front on to pretend?

In fact, I am glad we had the discussion. I think adversity is something which can bind people together. I didn't particularly care if any person were more or less a part of the plan drifting off, since the person I know sits in the centre of the plan is me - the person who wrote a plan. If I make a plan that doesn't work, then I have to do something to fix it. It's the same as if I wrote a program that didn't work, I should be expected to fix it.

So, in the tail half of the day, with some thinking on my feet, I came up with an alternative plan, with the help of the people around me. The aims are unchanged, some of the details are still the same, but some things have shuffled to make room. Time will tell.

Tonight's Sprint
After pushing the planning for my team to its resting position, I then set about the failing project that is my home (or to quote a person masquerading as "Sergeant Pepper" in a prank phone call I once received - my "abode of residence"). I had decided to do three mini tasks tonight.

  • Put up a floating shelf in the kitchen
  • Attach a coat hook to the bathroom door
  • Levitate the TV and DVD player in my room so that the cupboad behind them could be opened fully
I set about these with aplomb after a trip to Homebase for vital supplies. I gave a false impression that the DIY would be a small component of the evening by tackling the tiny tasks first. The floating shelf was relatively easy to put up, even though it was, in itself, something of a piece of crap in terms of its quality of materials and manufacture. However, the new rule in my house is that things are better hovering above the ground or work surface. Shelves are the new black. This was a black shelf, so it's black squared.

Next, while my dinner was heating in the microwave, I whacked the coat hook up. If I couldn't do that, then I should sell my tools on ebay and become a hermit.

Then I had the distinct pleasure of putting up an LCD bracket for my TV and a flat bracket for the DVD player. I'll be honest, it was a lot of bloody hard work. If this had been a project plan, I should have tackled these tasks first because they were the hardest and highest risk. However, I did them after the easy stuff because I needed to get going first with some easy stuff and because I knew that I'd not want to do more after the TV things and I'd also not be able to stop it part way through.

I finished the job. My TV is now up in the air, the DVD player sits below it. There's a little shelf on which my broadband kit sits, and there's now floor space where once there wasn't. The top cupboard, behind the TV has now been rehinged so that it folds rather then opens, thus avoiding smashing into the TV. It doesn't shut properly, but it never did, this time it's on my terms.

I'm bloody knackered.

Saturday, January 10

Ah Yes Daniel-San

Sometimes, the film you thought would be naff turns out to be pretty good. We watched Karate Kid tonight. It was on sale for "no pounds much" in Tesco and we thought it would be silly and kitsch and fun. It was actually very good. Did you know that it starred Elizabeth Shue - a 20 year old version of her good self indeed - playing a teenager, against a Ralph Macchio, who was actually about 22/23 when the film was made. He looked about 9!

There's some wit to the script and the 80's soundtrack only slightly grates... occasionally it grates a lot... but it's fine. It's a simple story of good vs evil or something like that.

I enjoyed it.

Wax off.

Friday, January 9

Speaks for itself


Thursday, January 8

Pedal To The Metal

Where I work there's a policy which allows you to double park your car in the car park. I parked mine in a double-parking stylee this morning, as I'd managed to fail to get moving for about 20 minutes this morning when I woke up at my girlfriend's place some 90 minutes' drive from work, thus causing me to arrive at the office after the point where all the spaces are full. I left my car in a double parking location and left my key with reception as is the policy.

A bit of back story. A couple of things have happened recently. Firstly, I have started to go through the big batch of stuff I collected from Newcastle last month. Going through it means to face up to the past in ways I'm still not sure I'm comfortable about. However, it also brings me back in touch with my CD collection, which I'm now dutifuly ripping to MP3 so I can have it in digital form and not worry too much about the multitude of discs in boxes in my house somewhere. So, on the seat of the car this morning I left the box from the Corrs unplugged album.

A bit more backstory. The other day, as part of the "let's go to the sales and buy out these bankrupt companies" approach that's part cost-saving, part retail-silliness, and almost a form of community service, I bought an album. At first I couldn't find the album, looking as I would normally do in the Rock and Pop section. Then it occurred to me - this band might actually be classed as Metal. They were. I bought a Metal album. Cor lumme and stone the crows.

Having listened to this album a couple of times, including on the way to work this morning, I can confirm that it's very much on the pop end of metal. Green Day - fairly mainstream in my view, with some reasonably good pop-sized-songs alongside the growling multi-movement-WRAWKKK.

As I walked away from my car this morning, knowing that it would be moved by someone else before I next got to it, and knowing that that person would get an earful of the CD I was listening to, it amused me to think that they may go "Hmmm - what's this music" and then see the Corrs CD case on the passenger seat and go "Hmmm - the Corrs have changed a lot since their fiddley daidley days".

I chuckled to myself.

Then the day didn't really hold much joy for me. I managed to pass muster at the dentist, but it was no grand victory.

I even managed to buy a toothbrush head just like the one I borrowed this morning when I discovered that my electric toothbrush head had broken. Still no joy.

Then I wrote a miserable "I need to kick myself up the arse" blog entry and got ready to come home.

The advantage of writing this blog is that it makes me think about my life from the outside somewhat. As a result, I actually did do some things to perk myself up. They were two simple tasks, but they had the desired effect.

Firstly, somewhat frustrated at the huge amount of stuff that I have no home for in my house, I went to Homebase, bought some shelves, took them home and put them up. I now have three shows for DVDs and books. I even got them to be a sensible distance apart. And level. Even though the walls are made of sponge.

Secondly, annoyed that my health and fitness isn't improving in any way, I got on my bike, literally, and cycled to Tesco. The shopping was necessary for other reasons, but the cycling made it into a healthy trip. This may have proved harder than expected on the way out, and the cause of a case of hiccups on the way back, but I'm glad I did it.

I haven't done the tax return tonight, or the writing, or any other of the stuff I might have done, but I'm pleased nonetheless. I have a plan.

A Kick Up The Arse

I really can't seem to get started at the moment. I need a damn good kick up the behind to get me going. I put it partially down to the Christmas break, which had me in a state of some sort of hibernation. I also put it down to the fact that it's cold and dark and generally not hospitable to the way I like to lead my life. However, it's a massive case of laziness on my part. With this in mind, I need to do something to shake myself out of this funk. If I don't, then I'll find myself stagnating and bloating very quickly.

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I plan to retrospectively put some notes about the past month or so on here - if only for posterity. However, I shall try to get the blog going again. I miss it. In fact, I miss the process of thinking which underpins writing on here.

In other writing news, last month saw me challenged with some writing deadlines for other purposes, which stole some blogging time I suppose. I have a massive writing/rehearsing/performing challenge to undertake in the next few weeks as a friend and I prepare for our show at the Leicester Comedy Festival. February the 7th is the deadline, and if ever the word "loom" seemed appropriate, it does now. Oh my god yes.

As I discussed with a friend last night, there are two key motivating forces: motion towards a goal and motion away from a threat. I don't know why, but I'm simply not a person who deals well with threats - I just close down and ignore them. However, motion towards a goal is very much my thing, so I need to get excited about the weeks ahead. There are a fair few things to pack into them and I think that keeping an eye on that will be the salvation. If I can say (on here, or anywhere else) that I've successfully done them, then I'll have proved my motivation... and perhaps the desire for the ability to say that I've done them will itself be a motivator.

So, today's dusty day in the office (dusty of mind) needs to be put to one side and I need to get myself going.

In a final observation, I've found it quite surreal as I've been going through the artifacts from my house in Newcastle. I'm shuffling things around my current house and some of what needs shuffling is the collection of boxes of stufff from Newcastle. In some cases things will make a trip to the charity shop or bin. However, there are a few items that represent a link with the past. I'm slightly fearful of suddenly being thrust back in the past. I don't like some parts of the past. I prefer the future. All sorts of memories seem to be entering my mind of the me I used to be when I owned the things I'm finding back in my life. Though there's nothing seriously tragic or bizarre in these memories of my former self, it still feels weird - a sort of negative nostalgia.

I froze some red wine the other day. I haven't done that since living in an agreed version of domestic bliss with my ex-fiancee. It felt like something was broken to be going back to the practice. This makes no sense. If I think carefully, perhaps I'll remember doing it while single. Some part of my brain is worrying that I'm reverting to a past version of me... this makes no sense. My present reality is very good and a far cry from those days. Unfortunately, while I'm sort of in the limbo of the start of the year, where it seems to make more sense to me to hide from everything, rather than get on with it, I may as well be in the past.

The present and immediate future beckons. Now is the time to get on with it.

Monday, January 5

Back To Work

Today was the proper return to work day. I started out with a ridiculously early (by my standards) start, as I was at my girlfriend's place. I had a return to this place planned for after work, so it'll be an early morning tomorrow too.

The day in the office started a bit lonely, as one of my guys is still on holiday, one was working from home for the morning and the rest are in Budapest. We had a meeting at 10am, which was a bit stiff as I think it takes practice to make a group of people who are distant from each other feel like they're close.

During much of the rest of the day, I indulged myself in completing a task I'd started at the tail end of last year. I was writing a program to solve a big problem that I've had at the forefront of my worries list for a long time. I won't go into detail, but I reckon that my "two day solution" will break the back of the problem. I'll find out soon enough.

I like programming - it's what I do. I have also to bear in mind that my team feel the same way and they have also been denied the chance to do that. So, enabling them to have some coding time is going to be an objective.

It's strange - I can see that as I talk about work, my use of language changes. I get boring. I don't want to be boring. But we all have to work. And I quite like my job at the moment.

I also called the tax people today and reversed the tax error, which caused me to get a 50% bonus on my last pay cheque. Sadly, this money will have to be paid back - the sooner the better. Better get it done sooner, I think. I told the tax man and I think it will all be sorted out by Feb.

Friday, January 2

A Practice Day and then...

For various reasons, including work holiday planning and also wanting to, I did my first day at work for the year today. I put it into two halves. There was the bit of the day where I went into the office, catching up on email and generally seeing what was what. Then there was the bit of the day where I came home and worked from there. The reason I did that was because it gave me a chance to have lunch with my girlfriend, who then went off to paint my house for me (that's nice... and very good value), and also put us near enough the public transport to get to our night's activity...

... which was going to see the amazing Bill Bailey. I've not seen him do stand-up live for a few years. It was brilliant fun watching him at a big theatre, and some of his stuff made me roar with laughter. I do like Mr B.

Thursday, January 1

Smelling of Beef

Having not had the chance to cook anything over Christmas, I wanted to cook something roasted. Beef it was. Cooking proceeded over a fairly long period, compared with the eating time at least, and I did some of the dishes I've not done in years - like special roasted parsnips.

My lady friend contributed Yorkshire puddings to the ensemble, along with gravy and general advice, support and effort. It was a team exercise.

The whole house smelled of beef. Curiously the beef didn't.

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